When we last caught up with pop punk duo Diet Cig in North Carolina, it was April of last year, and they had just released their debut full length album, Swear I’m Good at This, and were playing in Carrboro to a sold-out Cat’s Cradle Back Room. Since then, the duo of Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman have been touring virtually non-stop. Just when it looked like they might finally take a much-deserved rest, Diet Cig announced yet another round of North American tour dates to kick off 2018. Considering that Alex referred to Carrboro as one of her favorite shows from last year’s tour, we were not completely surprised, but definitely thrilled, when they returned this past Tuesday. With the Cradle Back Room once again sold out, and we made sure we were there.
The evening got off to a wild start with The Spook School. The Glasgow-based four-piece immediately got the room up and moving with joyous fast-paced indie-pop that tackled complex themes like gender, sexuality, and LGBTQ hardships with optimism and some irresistibly catchy hooks. The band’s set, which included songs from their recently released third album, Could It Be Different? was a big hit with the crowd. The band further endeared themselves to the room with some engaging and often hilarious between-song banter that even included a novel bit of publicity for their merch. By the time they closed out, with drummer Niall McCamley shirtless and sporting nipple tape, the audience was completely hooked.
With the crowd loose and smiling, the next band up was Great Grandpa. Hailing from Seattle, the five members of Great Grandpa shifted the mood slightly with a sound that was filled with contrasts. Playing songs from their debut album Plastic Cough, they mixed jangly bubblegum pop with grunge-laden guitars across a sonic landscape that shifted from soft and emotional to fizzy and abrasive. Singer Alex Menne locked in the audience with her emotive vocals and theatrical delivery that saw her finish the set flat on her back… Much like the audience, a satisfied but spent force.
Having navigated a gauntlet of sounds and emotions, the crowd was positively buzzing when Diet Cig took the stage. For the current tour, Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman decided to fill out the lineup and sound with two additional members, The Spook School’s Anna Cory pulled double duty and joined on bass and vocals , while Karli Roberts-Helm of the band Plush added keys and vocals. The newly expanded Diet Cig kicked off their set with “Sixteen,” from Swear I’m Good at This, followed by “Leo” and early single “Dinner Date.” The band are well into the current run of dates, and it was immediately apparent that the new members had settled in and found a groove, adding a slightly new dimension to the songs. Despite the slightly more crowded stage, Alex still managed to roam throughout the set, remaining in constant motion as she pogoed and delivered her acrobatic high kicks. The audience, filled with dedicated fans, matched the enthusiasm as they sang and danced along to each new song. Noah remained the unsung hero, pounding out the beat and driving each song forward.
As she has done at virtually all of their shows, Alex paused between songs early in the set to address the crowd and explain that Diet Cig shows should be about inclusion, and a safe space for all, while urging anyone to get their attention if they felt harassed. The vociferous crowd roared their approval and the set continued on at a furious pace pulling from across their debut album, EP, and singles. Highlights included “Breathless,” “Scene Sick,” “Barf Day,” and “Tummy Ache,” before closing out with a wild and joyous “Harvard” that ended with a foray into Semisonic’s “Closing Time.”
Diet Cig + Great Grandpa + The Spook School @ Cats Cradle Back Room – February 27th 2018